Do you think you’re depressed?

This is a question I have been asked numerous times over the past few weeks by every medical professional I have seen. I think they ask it because if I say yes, they could prescribe me something and be smug in the fact that they solved part of the mystery that is Hannah Green.

They seem slightly confused when I tell them that no, I wouldn’t describe myself as depressed. I ask them to try to picture themselves in my situation and ask whether they think they would be jumping for joy. Yes the last few weeks have been tougher than ever but that is because my symptoms have worsened. Therefore, yes, I have felt sad, I have been extremely emotional and teary, I have been quiet and felt very isolated. But I am not depressed. I continue to try to keep positive as and when I can and smile and move on once I’ve kicked myself back into shape. They just find this hard to understand.

I have now seen an immunologist, a dermatologist and a neurologist (privately otherwise the wait was until April next year!) and still no one can help me. They can’t even help me dumb down the pain or the burning on my head. I have been prescribed sleeping tablets and Tramadol for the pain but these combined with some of the other tablets I’m on mean that I am a zombie most of the time. I haven’t driven for two weeks again and I can’t walk far because my legs feel like jelly and I’m unstable on my feet.

The dermatologist didn’t really know what to do or say so has asked me to go next week for a case conference where several specialists are in the room and can assess me – that part is great but she also wanted me to let my hair grow for two weeks in the lead up. I tried to explain through my tears that I never shave the huge patch where I lost my hair, just the parts that kept growing because otherwise it was so unsightly. After a week of regrowth and feeling my confidence shrivelling with every day, I rang her and explained once more how distressing it was. Thankfully she said that if I could take lots of photos of it, I could bring them along and shave my hair. So that has definitely been something good that’s happened. Well, it is but that was until I had to shave my re growth off. Although I wanted it gone, for a short time it has been nice to stroke the soft hair that was growing. That must sound so odd to you but I haven’t had hair on my head for a year so to know it still grows was a relief, it was a joy to use a little bit of shampoo for a week, to have to use a towel to dry off my hair after a shower. So shaving it was like a grieving process once more. Not as bad as before because I was regaining control again and you’ll be impressed, I used shaving foam and a razor and wet shaved it off without a cut in sight – now that is a talent I never knew I had!

My body – mainly from the neck up is fighting off any drug, ointment or cream I use to help me. I have the most painful, itchy, irritating patches of raw skin around my eyes, cheeks and eye lids. It hurts to smile, blink – it’s just an added symptom that is unbearable. I have red, painful spot like lumps and bumps on my scalp that come and go but are so painful too. To combat all of this I am finding myself trying to do things to occupy my hands rather than use them to itch and scratch my face and make it even more painful. It’s a counter productive experience because doing anything on top of all the drugs in my system means I get super tired and have pay back from anything I do but I feel like I don’t have an option because otherwise I would get depressed. So, I’ve tried new baking recipes, made a personalised advent calendar for the family, watch TV or films and sorting Christmas presents and cards on a budget! I also have spent so much time sleeping again which is the only true release I get. My word I never thought my thirties would be so fun!

So, I’m hibernating again. I don’t feel like going out because I am very self-conscious but also because I don’t physically feel like I have the get up and go to do much, to deal with the noise and bright lights and people’s stares. And with today being December 1st it makes me sad to think that a year ago I was telling myself, it’s okay, this Christmas is going to be pretty rubbish but by next year you’ll be better and with some hair regrowth but that simply isn’t the case.

So no, I am not depressed, maybe I’ve dipped in and out of it in split seconds of weakness but I think most people would in this situation. No one can be positive all the time and that’s alright.

Happy Advent everyone,

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#hairlesshannah

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10 things to say & not to say to someone with a hidden illness/alopecia

Over the past ten months I have encountered many helpful and unhelpful comments from people.  On the whole, I am fully aware that they either don’t know what to say, they want to help but don’t know how but have my best intentions at heart. However, it never fails to shock me at how many people lack empathy or the ability to engage their mind before they open their mouth!

So, here are my handy hints and tips for what to say and not to say to someone with a hidden illness:

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Things NOT to say.

  1. I wish I had time to sleep as much as you do.

No you don’t. This isn’t a cheeky little Sunday lay in that we all crave after a long week at work or a fun night out clubbing. This isn’t a choice, it’s a necessity in order to cope with even a low amount of exertion. Believe me, I miss the days I was worn out from work or fun – you don’t want to experience this level of fatigue so don’t wish it on yourself!

2. I wish I could have ten months off work to just chill out and do nothing.

Really? Remember, if you’re not working you’re not earning. You lose your independence because you need to rely on others to help you out financially and that worry of not having any money or owing money is simply horrendous. Also, if you don’t work, you lose your purpose in life, you don’t have any responsibility and that sucks – big time.

3. It must be nice to not have any commitments.

It’s only human to look forward to a few days of no commitments and have some ‘you’ time but when that lingers for month after month, it really isn’t fun. To have to cancel plans and let people down is soul-destroying and isolating.  Don’t take for granted being able to plan things, see people and live life to the full.

   4. You don’t look like you’re sick.

If I didn’t have Alopecia, on the whole, I would look ‘fine.’ That is even more reason to listen to what someone tells you because it will deepen your understanding or take note of what isn’t being said because sometimes that will speak volumes. If I am quiet, I’m not in a mood – well, most of the time! – I am probably just quietly trying to manage my pain and resist the urge to scratch my face and head! The majority of my illness is hidden and I have become quite a good actress…just take time to understand that looks can be deceiving.

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 5. Try and push yourself through it, help yourself.

I am helping myself every single day. I pace myself, cancel plans, wear ear plugs all to help myself. It may not fit into your life or day but that’s why you have to be empathetic and understand, even though I know it must be frustrating at times.

6. I have a friend who tried **** and it cured them, you should try it too….

Believe me when I say I have and continue to try anything and everything but ten months in, I really don’t need to hear that your uncle’s best friends daughter rubbed vaseline into her joints for three weeks and he was magically cured! Everyone is different and although these weird and whacky treatments are fab, I don’t really want to hear it. I’m honestly not being ungrateful here, sometimes people have spent a long time researching their suggestions for me and these ones I always follow-up and look into, it’s just the odd ones that get me.

7. Just be patient, you will get there in the end.

I know. You don’t need to tell me.

8. You should say yes more and get out, it will help.

How I would love to do this. When I can, I will but when I can’t I don’t. It’s not because I don’t want to, it’s because I know I don’t have the spoons.

9. You’re too young to be this ill.

Age doesn’t factor into illness. As many people will know, if you’re ill, you’re ill. There’s no rhyme or reason to it, it just happens, so don’t comment on age.

10. You look so much better than I expected you to look.

Thanks…..I think. Does this mean I actually look awful but less awful than you’d imagined?! I know it’s a nice thing in reality but, you know what, I really don’t feel great and remember, it’s all hidden so just because I don’t look as pale and horrendous, this doesn’t match what I’m still dealing with.

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Things you SHOULD say:

Simple really, I believe you. I’m here for you.

Basically, It’s just nice to know your friends and family trust and believe what you are saying to them even though that can’t physically see it. It’s nice to know they’ve looked into your illness so have a deeper understanding of what you’re coping with without having to bombard me with questions. It’s nice to be involved in conversations that don’t revolve around illness, I like to hear gossip, news, problems and laugh – anything to take my mind of things is always lovely.

Thankfully, this is a quality that all the people in my life hold. If anything, being this ill has made me see who my true friends are and I can tell you now, I am one lucky girl.

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Things NOT to say to someone with alopecia:

  1. Being bald really suits you!

This is something you say to a friend when they’ve been to the hairdresser and had a change in style or colour. I haven’t been to the hairdresser and asked for a buzz cut. It’s not a choice.I don’t want to be bald, I don’t want it to suit me.

2. Thank goodness you’ve got a lovely shaped head.

Yes, it is a bonus that I have a nice shaped head but what could I do if I didn’t?! Would it make me repulsive? Like suggested by a newspaper recently – would it put people off their breakfast? No. Under your hair, you all have a bald head it’s just that you can see mine and I really don’t want any more attention drawn to it than necessary.

3. It must be so much fun to be able to experiment with wigs and scarves.

This is so well-meaning by anyone who says it, it’s a positive view on what they know is a tough situation. But for me, at the moment, no. It’s partly down to the pins and needles I have constantly, I can’t bear anything being on my head at the moment. Maybe, hopefully one day, I will feel happier wearing wigs but for me it just reminded me of what I’d lost. Worrying about it slipping, blowing away and having to remove it at the end of the day continued the trauma for me. If I’m just bald day in, day out, I don’t have to remove anything, I don’t have a reminder of what I don’t have anymore. I admire the wonderful women I follow on Instagram and on the Alopecia UK site because they seem to have fun trying and styling different wigs and I hope that one day that can be me. We shall see. As for scarves, if you know me at all, you’ll know how awful I was at styling my own hair let alone tying knots and twisting material and making it stay! Maybe practice makes perfect but again, not for me right now.

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4. Being bald must make getting ready so much quicker – you’re lucky!

Funnily enough I miss washing, drying, straightening, playing with my hair. Yes, I can get ready much quicker without all these processes but it’s not my choice and if you took time to think about how it would make you feel, maybe you wouldn’t say it.

5. You must save so much money not having any hair.

Yes, I do but I miss going to have my hair done, trying new products out…I’d trade you any day!

6. I’m having such a bad hair day!

This one always makes me chuckle. I actually don’t mind people talking to me about this because it’s a normal conversation for girls to have. I guess I don’t have bad hair days anymore, I just have no hair days! Some days I cope with my Alopecia better than others and can laugh and joke about it but most days I can’t stand it.  However, that doesn’t mean I don’t like to hear the moans and groans about bad cuts and colours or how the wind and rain is annoying – unless I’m having a bad day (which isn’t your fault) I love these moments.

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7. It WILL grow back.

Unfortunately, as lovely and hopeful as this comment is, we just don’t know. Many people’s hair does return but many peoples doesn’t. There is no cure and there is no plotted journey for hair loss. So although it’s a positive comment, in a way, it gives false hope so maybe just don’t say it.

8. It’s only hair.

As with so many of the above, just spend a moment thinking about how you would feel if one day you had beautiful hair and a few weeks later it was all gone. It’s not just hair. It’s part of you, it forms part of your personality. It changes how you feel about yourself and affects your confidence more than you can imagine.

What you SHOULD say and do:

Laugh at hair loss jokes and give cuddles when it’s too tough to find the strength to be positive about it all. Be honest when a wig or scarf looks utterly ridiculous but also comment on how lovely and beautiful we look when we get it right!

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And remember, September is Alopecia Awareness month so get your Fun Hat Fridays sorted and get in touch if you want me to come and do a class talk etc. Thank you so much for all your continued support, I really am lucky to have the support system I have.

Fun Hat Fridays

#hairlesshannah

x

 

A letter to…

Whilst being in Dubai the past few days, I’ve had time and space for the first time in seven months to think, digest and properly grieve for all that’s been going on, not just with me but with those around me. I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to find peace and accept the place I’m in right now emotionally, physically, finacially and geographically.

I have always been a worrier. I like to be organised, know what’s happening and what comes next. Anything other than this makes me feel on edge, anxious and out of control, however, these last few months have shown me that there have been times in my life that I’ve avoided due to worry or wasted time worrying about things that are out of my control or simply worrying because my actions may hurt, disappoint or upset those around me.

Although being here is much tougher than I’d imagined, I feel like I’m finding an inner strength to face adversity and take my next steps towards whatever may come next. So, I found myself earlier today thinking, what advice would I give my younger self about how to get through the thing we call life and here’s what I came up with….

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Dear little Hannah,

Throughout your life you will meet many people who will advise you about many things, but you are a strong person, even at your young age, you just don’t realise it yet. Trust in your instinct, it’s usually right and if it’s not it will always teach you something. 

Don’t make five-year, ten-year or any year plans, as much as you’ll grow to hate the saying, life really is a roller coaster and it can’t be predicted. There will be major highs and major lows and all that’s in between, but try to focus on the present and not worry about the ‘what if’s,’ it’s best to just enjoy the ride rather than try to predict what could or might happen. But most importantly, you only have one life, so live it. Appreciate the small things and then the big things will hold even more significance.

Cherish your family, they are your first experience of love and friendship and will teach you all (well, most) of what you need to equip you for life. You will be taught that your friends become your extended family, believe it and cherish them as much as you do your family. They are the people with whom you will experience many things and talk to about the issues that you can’t turn to your family about. Trust them and they will trust you, listen to them and they will respect you. Don’t ever doubt that you won’t make new friends – you will, all over the world, and they will be just as special and significant as those from your childhood. People will come and go in your life for many different reasons but each and every one of them will teach you something, and you will always hold a piece of them with you, good or bad.

You will undoubtedly change as you grow and experience life but your core values and beliefs will remain the same, so stick by them. If someone hurts you, give them a chance, but if they hurt you again, don’t put up with it. You will hurt because of them but stay true to who you are and stand strong in the knowledge that you did all you could have done to be the best friend you could have been. You will ultimately be left surrounded by the people who are your nearest and dearest. Try not to dwell on the past, that will be hard at times but you must find a way to let hurt, pain and negativity go. If you don’t you will spend many years harboring ill feeling which doesn’t help anyone. Don’t become an annoying positive, hearts and flowers person Hannah, but do try to find the good and positives in things, avoid stress and just enjoy your life.

Your Grandma Mim always said you’d been here before, you will be mature for your age which at times you will resent but you know what, who cares…you will have many stages in your life where you will dislike things about yourself and you either have to change it, live with it or get over it. There are things you can change and have control over and those that you simply can’t. You will learn things about people close to you that will alter the way you see the world, you will need to rebuild trust, learn not to bottle things up and find ways to move forward. Never doubt that you will be surrounded by people who are there to pick you up and make sure you move forward.  Out of all of this, you will learn the importance of forgiveness and that is something very important.

Try not to measure yourself against anyone else and try to accept people’s compliments – when you do it will feel quite nice. Although you won’t see it, you have your own type of beauty and you should acknowledge that; don’t be afraid to show people the real you, no matter how you look. 
Live, laugh and love. Ensure that you always do a job that you love with colleagues you love. That way you will laugh every day and have people to go to when things get tough and even better, people to go and have a good gossip with! Put your all into everything you ever do, if a jobs worth doing, do it well. Having said this, you will learn what balance means. You may learnt the hard way, but when you learn it will change your life. Nothing is worth causing you pain, ill-health, stress or upset. You will always try to solve problems, suggest ways in which things could change for the better and people may not always listen but you must then learn to find a solution that enables you to go to bed and wake up happy rather than with worry and negativity swimming around in your head. Your health is your wealth.
 And finally, if mum hasn’t started saying it to you yet, she will soon…never go to bed on an argument with the people you care about. 
Take care of yourself and the people you love Hannah, and have fun!
Lots of love,
Your older self
xx
30
And on that note, I want to finish this blog with some lyrics from a song called ‘For Good’ from the musical Wicked. The musical itself teaches us so many things about life; accepting people’s differences, compassion and forgiveness. From the first time I heard this song, it resonated with me and it always makes me emotional (“surprise surprise” I hear you say Deborah!) Now, more so than ever, I feel it relates to both people and experiences in my life and is a song I will always love dearly.
” I’ve heard it said, that people come into our lives, for a reason,
bringing something we must learn.
And we are led to those who help us most to grow, if we let them and we help them in return.
Well I don’t know if I believe that’s true,
But I know I am who I am today, because I knew you.
It well may be, that we will never meet again in this lifetime.
So, let me say before we part:
So much of me is made of what I learned from you.
You’ll be with me
Like a hand print on my heart.
And now whatever way our stories end,
I know you have rewritten mine
By being my friend.”
Have a listen, it really is a beautiful song and Kristen Chenoweth and Idina Menzel are the original actresses and sing it the best…in my opinion. Mum….tissues ready?!
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Hairless Hannah
xx

Don’t waste time.

Time. It’s a funny thing really. As teachers, we spend the entire time wishing our lives away to reach the next holiday and then they pass us by like whippets. As humans we spend our lives on a countdown to the next weekend, the next holiday, the next pay-day. But there are also stages in our lives that we would like to press pause on and enjoy the moment for just a little longer, be with that certain someone for just a few hours more, laugh a little harder and say the things we really want to say.

“Time is a healer” is something we often offer as a condolence for people in all kinds of situations but I have come to believe that time isn’t the healer. Time doesn’t heal us: we heal ourselves by learning to live with certain aspects of life that have dealt us a cruel hand. Some pain doesn’t disappear: we simply learn to manage it.

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For me, I can’t quite get my head around the fact that I have been ill now for almost six months and bald for nearly five. One of my personal struggles is learning to accept this situation that I find myself in. I haven’t “got used to the situations,” I haven’t “learnt to enjoy the perks of being bald,” I haven’t found that, “with time things will get easier.” There is no time frame with this hidden illness.

Yes, I have some really amazing days, recently a few in a row, but then out of the blue, BAM, my body says, “urmm, sorry Hannah but no, you are not ready to do all of those things. You need to slow down, listen to your mother more and not over do things on your good days.” This my friends, sucks. One thing I have learnt is not to resent these pay back days. I would much rather put to use my good days and spend time with the people who are tirelessly trying to make me feel good about myself – and succeeding may I add. The hard part is just learning that at the moment, my life isn’t normal, my body isn’t normal and although at some point I hope to be back to my usual self, I can’t put a time frame on that.

People find it strange when I tell them that the past six months have flown by. Normally when you’re ill, time slows down but for me it hasn’t. Possibly because I’ve spent an awful lot of it sleeping (!) but also learning about this new world I’ve uncovered about ME/CFS and alopecia. I am fully versed on coping strategies and telling people “I’m fine” and can now accept that my morning and evening routines are a combination of slow, exhausting, painful, granny like movements to either get me out of or into bed! I’m getting better at learning that sometimes things have to be about me and how I feel and not worrying so much about how others feel; being the flaky friend is okay when you have friends and family like mine who understand.

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Through my reiki sessions and using Bach remedies, I’ve become more in tune with how my feelings and emotions change over hours let alone days and weeks. The overriding and recurring feelings are frustration and sadness.

Frustration: I can’t live the life I want to. I can’t do the things I love doing. I can’t set goals and targets that are the true ones I want to, such as going back to work in Dubai, going dancing with my friends, going to the cinema (noise sensitivity is truly one of the worst things at the moment!) It’s also frustrating to try to explain how I feel on a daily basis because it changes so much and I know that I may appear okay but a lot of the time, I feel far from it.

Sadness: I have an overriding sense of sadness a lot of the time. At first I identified it as jealousy but having talked it through with a few people, realised it’s not. It sounds ridiculous but I grieve for my hair very single day. I have phantom hair moments when I go to rinse it out in the shower or go to itch a phantom twitch of an eyelash and realise they aren’t there. I miss my hair SO much. Just writing about it makes me well up. I can face the mirror now but it makes me sad because I don’t see a happy person there anymore, I just see sadness. Hair aside, I feel sadness for the time I am missing out on. Time to explore and fulfil things before I turn 30 that I had all mapped out in my head. Sadness that I can’t join in on day trips, cinema trips, shopping trips.

Now, I know the above all sounds very defeatist and miserable but you know what, I’m allowed to feel like this just as long as it doesn’t become the emotion I feel 90% of the time. Luckily, I am surrounded by people who tell me I’m allowed to feel like this because in all honesty, who can stay positive every day for six months?! I still make the effort to find the sunshine in every single day. I’m adapting to my new life and learning to do things in a new way i.e preparing meals or baking cakes by doing the majority of it sitting down and using my left hand!

I’m learning a lot from this experience and if there is one thing I’d say to people, it’s don’t wish time away. I’ve had time to think and see what and who is truly important to me but also I’ve seen who I am important to also. Lives are busy but you know what, if something or someone is important to you, you make the time. You only get this one life, so, even when things are really, REALLY bad, find the sunshine because you’re guaranteed to find some somewhere, even if it’s lurking under a big, dark boulder. I’m learning to take each day as it comes and it really does make you appreciate things more rather than always being on a countdown to the next big thing…there are big things in every day, even if it’s having enough energy to shave your legs!

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Happy Sunday all…go find today’s sunshine!

Hairless Hannah

xx

 

Raising Eyebrows

This week I took back some more control, made my own sunshine, put my anxiety to one side and got two tattoos…on my face! Yes, people, I am now the proud owner of two, brand spanking new, hair stroke eyebrows that, even if I do say so myself, look pretty damn awesome! As with everything recently, I have had my eyes opened to a whole new arena: I never thought I’d ever get a tattoo or have semi permanent make-up but as with everything else, if it makes you feel better – do it.

As with most things like this, it’s better to go somewhere that has been recommended. I have started following so many inspirational women with alopecia on Instagram and one posted photos of her ‘new’ eyebrows that she had done in Canterbury. It had taken her four years to make her decision but she said how there were no regrets and she’d prompt anyone thinking about it to just take the plunge.

So, I started by ringing Helen Porter Advanced Cosmetics in Canterbury (www.helenporteruk.com) and had a lovely conversation with Helen Porter who owns the business. I knew almost immediately that this place was the real deal: she was calm, patient in answering my questions and very encouraging. I took time to then look at her Facebook page at eyebrows that she’d done (search:Semi Permanent Make up by Helen Porter) and then spoke to mum about whether she thought it was a good idea. The waiting list was 7 weeks for Helen but I opted to have mine done by Steph and, within a week, I found myself laying on the treatment bed!

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Strangely, I wasn’t as nervous as I had expected to be – probably because it surely couldn’t be as bad as my acupuncture experiences in the last week…I won’t be going back to that woman! Yes, I was nervous because these tattoos, although semi permanent, would be on my face for at least a year before they start to fade, so they had to be done right – both shape and colour wise. I had my wonderful friend Claire with me who I knew would be honest about what suited me or not which also put my mind at ease and she was given the job of being photographer for the day to document the experience!

So, we started by looking at photographs of my natural hair colour and eyebrows so Steph could see what I was used to. She then started measuring my face – who’d have ever thought my face would be a blank canvas for an artist to draw on?! It seemed very mathematical – measuring from my nose out, having them set 3cms apart and using a rather heavy duty, ticklish piece of apparatus to do so!

Next, Steph set to work drawing on the template for my eyebrows – yes, we got the giggles and yes Claire had to step away with the camera because if this part went wrong I would have looked either permanently surprised or permanently naffed off! I then had to look in the mirror and decide if I liked the shape that had been drawn on – we edited them a little but overall, I was really happy. I was shocked at the colour and had to be reminded that this was just the template and it was block colour rather than hair strokes which is what I would have eventually. I must admit, I did feel like Boy George at this stage and did have a moment of doubt!

 

 

A question that I asked and many have asked me since, is did it hurt? The first outline did hurt, more so on my right hand side which is obviously where my weakness is at the moment but it wasn’t an unbearable pain. Helen did the outline and was very gentle and talked to me throughout which made me feel more comfortable. Once the initial outline was done, anaesthetic was applied and from then on I could barely feel a thing. In fact, it was the first time in five months that I didn’t have the irritating pins and needles in that part of my face and it was heaven. Once the initial hair strokes were in place, they had to be re traced twice more and then Helen came back to apply the powder base to give the final overall effect.

 

 

I then had another chance to look in the mirror and check to see if I wanted anything changed. One seemed slightly darker than the other so Steph adjusted that but apart from that, they were done.

For the first time in months I looked in the mirror and felt more like ‘me’ which was totally overwhelming. I knew how much losing my eyebrows had changed me emotionally but hadn’t realised just how much until they were back. Eyebrows change the shape of your face by giving  definition but I also felt like I had a bit more colour in my cheeks and that my smile was better placed. Obviously there were tears but for once, they were tears of joy and pure happiness.

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Aftercare was explained to me – no getting them wet or touching them for a week. They would scab over so needed to be coated in bepanthen cream using a cotton bud twice a day. I was also warned that because I have alopecia, the dye may not take as easily as it would for ‘normal’ skin but I wasn’t to worry, it would just mean that I possibly would need two top up sessions rather than one. I must admit I did make a panicked call to them this morning when little patches started to come off but as I’d never had tattoos before, how was I supposed to know that was normal?! The only thing I can compare it to is henna; the dark layer will fall off and leave me with the lighter tattoo underneath – I was a little worried at how dark they were but am confident that this isn’t the final colour I’ll be left with.

Claire said afterwards that it was already hard for her to remember what I looked like without my eyebrows but when we compared, side by side, it became even more apparent what a difference two strips of hair can make. When I think about that, it makes me excited for when my head hair comes back, I can’t even begin to imagine how that will make me feel. In a way, I’m almost frightened to let myself think that far ahead in case it doesn’t grow back but I must admit, it’s a nice thought.

before after brows

I paid £195 for the 2 hour session and the top up in five weeks is £75. I know this sounds like a lot of money, and it is. I would NEVER go out and spend that amount of money on myself but as my dad would say when buying a pair of jeans, spend your money in a good shop and you’ll save money in the long run! You can pay more for eyebrows, even in Evolution, because different levels of experience warrant a different price label, however, I cannot praise Steph and Helen enough. They were simply amazing and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend them to anyone. It’s amazing the range of treatments they offer and I’m unsure they are aware how life changing what they do for people like me is; within that 2 hour session they transformed me from a  girl who couldn’t look in the mirror to someone who could look in the mirror and smile again, and for me, there is no price tag for that.

selfie

Now, as you know, when I got my wigs, we gave them names – Brian and Adam – because calling them ‘wigs’ somehow just seemed, for me/us, a hard term to get to grips with. So, naturally, trying to make light of tough decisions, I’d asked Cathy what she thought we should name my new eyebrows. Initially, we couldn’t think of any girl duos so we came up with possibles: Pinky and Perky, Ant and Dec, Bill and Ben. However, when I sent Cathy a photo of my new additions, she sent me a text that I will keep and treasure forever. Amongst friends, Cathy is known for her loooooong text messages because she likes to get all the details in and we love her for them, so when I could she was writing back, I was thinking, uh oh – what names has she got for them now?! But, in actual fact she sent a rather short text and in true Cathy form (known to be one of the only people to just give me a look and make me cry!) instantly made me cry because she hit the nail on the head:

“No name for them darling as they look so real why would we normally give our eyebrows names?! So, they’re just naturally now called, your eyebrows xxx.”

That was SUCH a special text to receive from such a special person to me and I will never be able to properly put into words how right she was.

Wednesday was my longest, most eventful day I’ve had since I became ill. I had the doctor first thing which I walked to (I’m trying to walk a mile every other day to build my strength up – excruciating but needs must) and then Claire took me to Canterbury. It was lovely as we had a nice lunch before my appointment and then we headed straight home but it meant I’d been out for almost 8 hours. I was on a bit of a high with my eyebrows but boy have I paid in spoons ever since. I’ve had a real flare, exhaustion like I haven’t felt in several weeks; I’ve slept so much more – with the help of new dose of tablets from the doctor – but my muscular pain has been so much worse alongside my sensitivity to light and sound. Don’t get me wrong, Wednesday was totally worth it, I just have to learn from it – I’m not ready for BIG days out yet, I didn’t pace it right, I probably should have got the bus to the doctors rather than walked as I did a lot of walking in Canterbury but, you live and learn and for now, I’ve just got to build my spoons back up again.

Also, I had some more sunshine thrown my way this week from an ex-colleague and friend who organised a cake sale at her hairdresser’s and raised £72 for Alopecia UK which is just amazing. Thank you Alison, your support has been fantastic. Also – thank you to those of you who have sponsored Jane for her run for Alopecia UK, every penny counts and doesn’t go unnoticed, both Jane and myself are very grateful.

 

 

To sign off today’s blog with something to make you smile, for some random reason my iPod souffléd to Jay Z the night I’d had my eyebrows done – 99 problems – and in my hysteria, without thinking, I changed up the lyrics – “I’ve got 99 problems but my brows aren’t one!” Gotta make my own sunshine right?!

brows

Hairless Hannah xx

http://www.helenporteruk.com

 

Life is like a box of chocolates

“Life is like a box of chocolates.” How true this quote is – as much as we can be organised and have plans for our lives, you are pretty much guaranteed that they won’t go the way you want them 100% of the time. There will be hiccups, bumps and whacking great big craters in your way that you have to navigate your way round to get you back on track – and even then it may not be the track you started on. If this is the case, I believe it’s still the track you were always destined to be on. I must admit, I’m not a big believer in a higher power but I do think that we have our lives mapped out somehow and that we will always get to the place we should be, battle scars and all!

bumps

I feel like I am trying to haul myself out of a crater at the moment and I know for certain that when I reach the top, the outlook will be very different to what is was before I fell in!

I’ve had to make tough decisions over the last few weeks about what happens next. My brain fog has been noticeably more clouded recently , so thinking about making decisions has made me more confused than it would normally and I’ve therefore had to rely on other people’s advice rather than coming to my own conclusions.

As much as physically possible, I want to get back to Dubai and finish what I started. I feel like I have failed and this whole episode has massively knocked my confidence. This is hard for me because out of anything in my life, I love my job and I know I am good at it so to find myself worrying about getting back in front of a class again, dealing with paperwork, meetings etc is just so alien. It’s all so overwhelming and I honestly worry that I won’t be able to cope or do my job as well as I used to. However,  that is my short term plan, get back to Dubai even if it’s to work for a month, at least I can say I did it and that thought is what’s motivating me at the minute.

I have listened to my doctor, friends and family though and I know that as of September, I need to find a job closer to home because my new path might be a bit trickier than anticipated so I need to be near my support system – lucky them! As someone kindly said in response to my last blog, there should be no guilt in leaning on your nearest and dearest for support, no matter what you’re going through, big or small. That’s what friends and family are for and anyway, they are using this time to store up credit for when they need you!

my clan

This decision probably sounds like an easy one to most people. I’ve been and still am really ill so choosing to live and work nearer to home for the foreseeable future from September should be the easiest option but it really isn’t. I have loved my Dubai adventure: I’ve learnt so much about myself and have had some of the most amazing opportunities put in my way that I feel by losing this third year, I’ve missed out on so much. I haven’t done everything I’d planned to do and achieve. Dubai was never EVER on my radar until mum and dad suggested it after seeing an advert a few years back. After the whole jury service/panic attack debacle, I lost several years of my life until I eventually had the courage to move out and get my own flat. Mum and dad had always known I wanted to travel but that was just impossible with all the ‘issues’ I had as a result of the court experience. However, I think they sensed after a few years of gaining my confidence, that I was ready for a new challenge and adventure and although we don’t always want to admit that our parents are right, they really were in this case.

I’d never even been to Dubai on holiday and within the space of three weeks I’d applied, had an interview in London and been offered a job.  Three months later I was on a plane – this was so not me, throwing caution to the wind and really, in a way, being selfish for the first time and doing something that I needed to do for myself to prove that I could live my life and be independent. Don’t get me wrong, I was utterly terrified. I was leaving a school and colleagues who I respected and loved, friends and family who were the best a girl could wish for, leaving my flat unrented as the planned tenants had fallen through – I must have been bonkers but you know what? I needn’t have worried.

I think crossroads are put in our path to make us re evaluate our lives and test us. I honestly do believe that what is meant for us won’t pass us by. There is not one thing I regret about moving to Dubai and it will always hold such a special place in my heart. I will go back for holidays and talk about my adventures for years to come.  For now however, it is obviously not where I need to be so I have to move onto my next chocolate but I’m not sure what it is, there’s no booklet in the box to explain what the filling is!

gump

Everything seems so overwhelming at the moment; the thought of applying for jobs and going for interviews exhausts me. I’m just not ready yet. There are so many questions and concerns in my head and that just means that at the moment I have literally no idea what comes next. I know it will become clearer as I get stronger but that doesn’t help me now and as much as I tell myself to stop worrying, I can’t help it! As a friend said to me this week, I need to take small steps, accept help and eventually I’ll be able to move on to the bigger things without even thinking about it. I know she’s right, but for someone who always has a plan and is relatively in control, this is a hard concept to grasp. This is not how I planned to be approaching my 30th year!

However, as always I have been looking for the sunshine this week and this week there have been much prolonged periods which can’t be said for the actual weather this week!

One of the main things was finding out that Jane is going to run a half marathon for Alopecia UK to help me raise some more awareness. I am posting the link below so any   sponsorship you can afford would be greatly appreciated by Jane, myself and Alopecia UK.

https://www.justgiving.com/Jane-Savage4

alopecia uk

The other bonus was that Dad and I managed to finally bake something edible (our croquembouche and gingerbread houses were both inedible!) and were very proud of ourselves! I also managed to have a photo taken too – high five me!

rainbow cake

My final big achievement of the week was booking and going for not one but two acupuncture sessions! Jury’s still out but I will write more about it next time when I have decided how I feel about it!

So, in Jerry Springer style my final thought for this blog: for everyone who is facing difficult decisions at the moment or are in a place in their lives they never saw coming, remember that there is always someone else in the boat with you. Keep looking for sunshine no matter how small and eventually I’m sure our roads will become smoother. Take leaps of faith and do things that you wouldn’t normally do, enjoy as much of every day as you possibly. If all else fails, try laughing yoga as seen on TV last week in ‘The Real Marigold Hotel,’ if you don’t laugh at that then I honestly don’t know what to suggest!

laughter

Hairless Hannah

xx

Let’s be honest…

It’s come to my attention over the past few months that honesty is something that we are afraid of. I have always known that I am a worrier but now that I am older, the things I worry about have changed. Unfortunately, I have many friends who are in tough situations themselves, with either ill parents, losing parents or dealing with other ‘grown up’ stuff!  How is it that we are at this point in our lives, surely we are really only 13 still?!

worry

In many aspects of my life I am quite happy to be honest and it doesn’t bother me at all. Work for example, being honest with parents, colleagues, students; all situations that can throw up potentially awkward situations but I’d rather be honest about what I feel. But, when it comes to more personal situation such as talking to my friends, I find myself worrying, am I being insensitive here? Do they think that me writing a Blog about myself and my problems is selfish? Their situation is so much worse than mine, do I have the right to tell them the truth about how I really feel OR should I just say ‘I’m fine’ and be done with it? It’s also true of my friends who are in a good, positive place – why would they want to know how I really feel – we’ve all known that person who always complains or moans whenever you ask how they are and I DO NOT want to become one of them.

I have had so many lovely chats with people since becoming ill and inevitably, conversations lead onto them telling me about something challenging that’s going on in their lives. But what I have found interesting is that most people will follow their story with an apology: “I’m so sorry, you don’t need to hear about my problems with everything you’re going through.” But my point is, yes, yes I do need to hear about your problems and worries – you do not need to apologise, that is your life and therefore you are totally justified to feel the way you do. The centre of a good friendship is trust and talking – especially for women – so we should trust in each other that we won’t be upset or take it personally if you talk about what you NEED to talk about. If you are worried about what people think or are saying about you and how you’re dealing with your situation behind your back, then that is more of a reflection on them than it is on you.

friends

For example, and I’m sure she won’t mind me disclosing our recent conversation, I just had a lovely phone call with a very close friend. She’s off on holiday tomorrow to celebrate her 30th and she’s made a mistake with the credit card so now she’s rushing around trying to get dollars and thinking she’s messed up the holiday. She said to me she rang because I was guaranteed to be honest and tell her to get on with it! Well, yes she was right! I told her that if she’d lost her passport or cash then the situation would be different but she hadn’t and in a matter of hours she will be on her way to an amazing holiday so get over it and get packing.  However, I also emphasised that she was allowed to feel stressed because we all know that it takes one little thing like that to throw you off course and make the run up to a holiday very taxing! She apologised for telling me such a ‘first world problem’ when she knows how I am feeling…why?! It’s nice to have normal conversations and be treated normally!

I think being ill has made me more empathetic. It’s made me acutely aware that no matter what we are going through in our lives, everyone else is dealing with something too no matter how big or small and we have to always consider this. That can be hard and frustrating at times but as long as we try, that’s all we can ask of ourselves.

dr suess

As humans, we are conditioned (well, most people) to be sensitive towards each other and consider ones feelings, but censoring our thoughts and feelings only leads to suppressing them and as I have discovered that can only makes situations worse. Now, I’m not saying that we should all be openly talking about our feelings, I for one am very good at bottling things up, people deal with things in their own way. I am the worst for not being able to talk and be honest, I know that I always end up crying and becoming an utter mess and not making sense. I find it much easier to write things down and let that open up a conversation – each to their own.

But, I guess I have to practise what I preach so here is some honesty from me! I’ll start with a photo I had to take as part of the Alopecia study. I had to document parts of my day and I felt like I would be lying if I didn’t document the tears that went with shaving my head. Taking photos and looking at myself as I’ve said before is hard but this photo is brutally honest.

tears

  • I am insanely jealous of everyone making the most of their half terms – travelling to Sri Lanka, America, Ireland or making the most of Dubai. I can’t help thinking, that should be me and it’s not. (I’m finding it very hard here not to apologise and think/write – but that doesn’t mean I’m not totally happy for those people to be travelling and living their lives – oops, I just did!)
  • I am utterly fed up to the back teeth of feeling ill. I HATE this illness and how it’s changed both me and my life.
  • I know that things will get better but I am frustrated that there’s no end point, I can’t really make plans for tomorrow let alone in a few months time.
  • I feel like I’m letting people down – work colleagues especially and it doesn’t seem like there are enough words to tell them how much I am honestly trying to get back to full health to rejoin the team. It’s a guilt that I shouldn’t have, but I do.
  • I miss my hair. It isn’t getting easier and I still have this ridiculous phantom hair situation every morning after I shower where I go to ring the water out – stupid eh?!
  • I’m not sure that wigs are for me. I find it harder to wear a wig than a scarf at the moment. By choosing a wig that was as close to my hair was a great, sensible idea at the time but now, it makes me even more aware of what I have lost. Having ‘fake’ hair in the form of a wig just feels so alien to me. I won’t give up on them but for now, I need to follow my heart and wear my scarves!
  • I miss wearing make up and feeling good about myself.
  • I miss my social life and feel annoyed that I am turning into a flakey friend who has to cancel things at the last minute.
  • I’m scared, no, terrified of trying acupuncture but I know that I should try it because it might help.
  • I am so thankful for all my friends and family who have been indescribably wonderful through everything.
  • I loved being home for pancake day!
  • It was amazing to get out of the house after 8 days of being shingle, sick, house bound! But…the muscle pain that followed the walk was excruciating and resulted in my first pain endured night of insomnia. I made my won sunshine though as I ended up watching ‘Sisters’ at 1am which made me laugh out loud!

So, the message of this blog is that if someone asks how you are, be honest, don’t sugar coat things if you don’t want to…it’s quite therapeutic and can make you feel lighter.

good egg

Have a lovely week and half term if you are a teacher – well deserved!

Hairless Hannah

xx